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2020 Yoga Bills in Congress

This year is going to be a big one in Washington. These are the yoga bills to keep on your radar during election season.

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For school kids

At the beginning of the year, yoga was illegal in Alabama public schools after a proposed state bill failed last spring that would have lifted the 1993 ban prohibiting schools from offering the practice, likening it to an Eastern religion. Though the bill, introduced by Representative Jeremy Gray—a former football player turned yoga practitioner—had support from 18 representatives on both sides of the aisle, it didn’t make it to the House floor for a vote in 2019. 

Gray reintroduced in the bill in 2020, and on March 10, Alabama lawmakers voted to lift the decades-old ban on yoga in public schools, but the bill would keep the greeting “namaste” on the forbidden list. The bill says that local school systems can decide if they want to teach yoga, poses, and stretches. However, the moves and exercises taught to students must have exclusively English names, according to the legislation. It would also prohibit the use of chanting, mantras, and teaching the greeting “namaste.” 

“We’re doing kids a big injustice if we don’t implement yoga in K through 12,” Gray says. “Children are going through traumas every day—some are living in poverty or being bullied. Yoga helps people learn how to deal with daily stressors in a critical-thinking capacity, and teaches them how to reflect. It’s a mental health preventative method.” In fact, Gray credits the mindfulness and mental resilience he learned through yoga with helping him win his House seat despite having had no prior political experience. “I’ve seen [what it did for] me, and I want to be an advocate for it,” he says.

See also Yoga for Kids

For veterans

Elsewhere in the country, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been ramping up its complementary and integrative care (it now covers, for instance, eight different interventions, including yoga and meditation, in its medical care packages). Going even further, the department is now implementing a “whole health approach,” designed to consider each veteran’s overarching health needs. That means less focus on doctors treating ailments only as they manifest, and more focus on a patient’s whole physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual health. 

A small flurry of new federal legislation related to this was introduced in 2019 and will continue making its way through the political pipeline this year, including the Expanding Care for Veterans Act and the Whole Veteran Act. These proposed laws would expand the scope of VA research to include the effectiveness, accessibility, and implementation of complementary and integrative interventions such as yoga and meditation to veterans.

See also Yoga for Veterans